The top schools in the Ribble Valley


Stonyhurst - Credit: Archant

The Ribble Valley is famous for many things but it is top of the class when it comes to the quality of its schools. Roger Borrell reports

They say you can’t put a price on a good education but its value to the Ribble Valley and the area’s rising reputation as one of the best places to live cannot be overestimated.

The past 12 months have seen a steady stream of accolades for this lovely area with Clitheroe named as one of the top 10 market towns in the UK with neighbouring Whalley in the top 10 places to live.

The 2015 Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey named it as the best place in the north west, highlighting its low crime rate, high employment, broadband access, health, wellbeing and life expectancy. It only lost points when it came to the weather!

‘These results reveal what we have always known - the Ribble Valley is one of the UK’s hidden gems,’ said Stuart Hirst, the council leader.

A big factor in the survey’s conclusion was the quality of schools and the subsequent standard of academic achievement. This is a big draw for families looking to relocate to the region and it does heat up the property market. For instance, recent research claimed house prices close to Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, a selective state school, have the UK’s third highest percentage premiums, being £86,857 or 62pc more expensive than those in the rest of Lancashire.

Ian Lloyd, a director of Fine & Country estate agents and senior partner in Mortimers in Clitheroe, is well aware of the trend. ‘The excellence of our private and state schools is a big part of our success and we have every reason to be very proud of that fact.’

There are some exceptional centres of learning. The magnificent Grade I listed Stonyhurst College, the country’s leading independent Jesuit boarding and day school, attracts students from China, Korea, Mexico, North America, Africa and throughout mainland Europe. They join a community of predominantly British youngsters, many from in and around Stonyhurst’s home village of Hurst Green.

The school was founded in 1593, based in Bruges and Liege before crossing the English Channel in 1794 and settling at Stonyhurst Hall, which had been gifted by Thomas Weld, a former pupil from its years in Liege. Descendents of the family still attend.

In Clitheroe, the private Moorland School was described by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) as ‘creating an ethos of honesty, respect and decency.’ It added: ‘Throughout the school the pupils are well educated, in accordance with the school’s aim that all children fulfil their true potentials.’

Up the road at Whalley, Oakhill College is an independent Catholic day school for boys and girls aged up to 16 years with beautiful, wooded grounds. Its ISI report said: ‘Pupil’s personal development is excellent. The school community has a secure and caring family feel.’

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Clitheroe Royal Grammar School is also a big draw. It was founded in 1554 and it has a strong academic record as one of the country’s highest achievers. It aims to combine the strengths of a mixed selective grammar with the advantages of being a modern 21st century school.

The Ribble Valley’s state schools are also popular with many families. Ribblesdale, Longridge and Bowland are all rated as good. Bowland’s history may not quite match Stonyhurst but it has a fascinating story to tell as a Victorian hydro, a luxurious Edwardian hotel, an orphanage and a wartime home for refugee children before becoming a secondary school in 1949.

Ian Lloyd has seen a shift in trends in recent years. Parents who were buying second homes in the Ribble Valley to see their boarder children at weekends are now moving in permanently and commuting to work with their children taking day places.

He recognises there are challenges on the horizon. With 5,000 new planning consents in the Ribble Valley, it looks like the pressure for places will grow even more intense over the next decade.

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